Food for Thought

Think about this: our full-time kitchen staff of 13 makes 7,590 meals and provides 4,250 pieces of snack per week. That’s 273,240 meals and 157,250 pieces of snack per school year! These numbers don’t include the kitchen’s daily snack bar operation at the Belfry, summer camp programming nor the catering department that last year alone supported 529 special events for Westtown.

The numbers are astounding, right? What’s even more impressive, though, is our kitchen staff’s dedication to providing 273,240 healthy meals to the community by sourcing a growing percentage each year of locally-grown foods, and employing sustainable dining practices.

Beth Pellegrino, Director of Food Services, Wade Tomlinson, Sustainability Coordinator, and Tim Mountz, Farm Manager – indeed all our kitchen staff and many students - work together on “farm-to-school” and sustainability initiatives. Greening the dining experience includes everything from Westtown co-founding with PAISBOA (PA Independent Schools Business Officers Association) a program which makes it easier for independent schools to buy local farm products from The Common Market in Philadelphia, to the increase in organic produce grown on our own farm, to the elimination of sugared drinks and single-serve condiment packages, and even to the way the students sort dishware and utensils.

In the past nine years, Westtown has tripled the amount of food purchased locally/organically and is now up to 20 percent, which includes the hundreds of pounds of produce that make a trip of only a few hundred yards from the student farm to the Dining Room. This summer alone, Teacher Tim and his Upper School student crew delivered to the kitchen 175 pounds of cucumbers, 87 pounds of squash and 35 pounds of tomatoes. And that’s above and beyond the nearly 2,000 pounds that went to 18 local families during the summer CSA. Lower School gets into the act as well. This fall, Second Graders harvested enough “Snowball” cherry tomatoes for Lower School snack, and the following week picked a crate of kale which the kitchen baked into tasty kale chips—devoured in an instant. Tim says that the farm will continue to provide produce for our kitchen as the greenhouse and the high tunnel transition from tomatoes to salad greens for winter harvesting. His mission is to “get as much greenery in the diets of these kids as possible.”

Students work in concert with Tim on the farm during classes, after school (gardening is an official “check out”), and on weekends, and they initiate programs with Judy as part of the Middle and Upper School Environmental Clubs. The Middle School Green Moose Group brought healthy, delicious fruit smoothies to the Belfry – a huge hit -- and both groups have launched an effective “Take Back the Tap” campaign to replace disposable plastic water bottle use on campus with refillable bottles. Thanks to new student initiative and energy, a Food Network club has formed this year. Club members will work with Beth, focusing on Dining Room menus, increasing the variety of vegan and vegetarian dishes offered, and other creative new ideas. Students in all divisions have become experts in sorting waste and composting. With Single Stream Recycling campus-wide, we divert a whopping 55 percent of our waste from landfills -- up from 20 percent only three years ago.

We are grateful for not only all the work that goes into feeding our community, but also for the work and energy required to feed us responsibly and healthfully.

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